George Soros and the Founding of Central European University

Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)



Case Study Sector


As a student at the London School of Economics in the 1940s, George Soros read the work of the Austrian-born philosopher Karl Popper. Popper's ideas about falsifiability, and about "closed" and "open" societies, had a profound influence on Soros, who went on to develop his own theory of "reflexivity," a set of ideas that seeks to explain the relationship between thought and reality. By applying reflexivity to monetary markets in his job as a speculator, Soros repeatedly anticipated emerging financial bubbles, accumulating a vast fortune.
In the late 1970s, Soros turned his attention from accumulating wealth to giving it away. He began directing his philanthropic efforts toward opening up Central and Eastern Europe, which were then under the domination of the communist Soviet Union, a prototypically closed society. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet system, Soros had a new, more difficult objective: the establishment of an open society.
The idea for an independent, international university located in Central Europe first arose during a meeting at the Inter-University Centre in April 1989. Initially Soros opposed the idea, but the next year he changed his mind, and the governments of Czechoslavakia, Hungary, and Poland agreed to support the fledgling Central European University. . . .



  • Strategy


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